New community grocery in Concord sells local, regional food

04/19/2013 10:22 AM

04/19/2013 10:22 AM

The local food movement last week made some ground-breaking progress, as three Cabarrus farming families announced the opening of Peachtree Market, a small grocery store that will sell local and regional products.

The partnership between Creekside Farms, Rowland Family Farms LLC and the Newton family has been in the works for more than two years.

Located in the courtyard of the renovated former Cabarrus Creamery building at Peachtree Avenue and Church Street in Concord, the store will be open for a few hours every Friday through Monday. Longer hours are expected as customer interest grows.

“A goal of the local food movement for several years has been a brick-and-mortar store for local foods,” said David Goforth, horticulture agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Cabarrus County Center in Concord. “Finally, it looks like the pieces have fallen into place.”

Local food roots run deep

Cabarrus County’s local food movement has been evolving for roughly three decades, but it has seen a surge in the past four or five years, said Aaron Newton, the county’s local food system program coordinator and co-author of “A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil.”

Founded in the early 1980s, the Piedmont Farmers Market is one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the state, said Newton. It hosts a year-round market on Winecoff School Road, near the city limits between Concord and Kannapolis, as well as other seasonal markets throughout the county.

The revitalization of the local food system started about five years ago with the launch of projects like the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm, the state-regulated harvest facility run by Cruse Meats, and the establishment of the county Food Policy Council and the Community Food System Assessment, said Newton. Learn more at localfood.cabarruscounty.us.

Inspiring collaboration

“I see Peachtree Market not just as a grocery store, but as a clever trap for catching people interested in eating well while putting them to work on all the great projects needed to make food matter in Cabarrus County,” said Newton.

Newton said he visited Howard’s Grocery in Kansas City in February, and that store served as a model for the Concord store.

“This is just the first version, to give people in Concord a taste of what it is like to have a local grocery store,” said Newton. “We hope interest will drive a bigger, better version soon.”

The market will carry many of the products offered by Rowland Family Farms’ online farmers market and delivery service, golocalncfarms.com.

The market is expected to cater to people who don’t want to order their local food online or wait for weekly deliveries. GO Local will, however, offer online orders with delivery to the store. Its owners are soliciting public input about the store’s hours of operation and what products and suppliers to use.

Connecting consumers to farmers

Chad VonCannon, owner of Creekside Farms, said the main vision for the store is to unite like-minded individuals who bring to the table a unique and beneficial set of ideas and problem-solving abilities.

“Together we can attempt to fill a need that the customer has been asking for and, to some extent, demanding for quite some time,” said VonCannon.

VonCannon said the community’s interest in local foods is as strong as he’s ever seen it.

“There is such an interest by customers in getting back to the basics: back to foods that are not as highly processed, to foods that have not traveled all across the country,” he said. “Increasing the convenience for customers to support local farms through avenues such as Peachtree Market … will only increase the amount of high-quality, local foods being consumed in our area.”

The next challenge, said VonCannon, is to increase the amount of local food available in area restaurants and schools.

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